Does swatching in the round make a difference?

A lot of patterns are worked in the round these days, mine included, but did you know that working in the round can affect your gauge?

Both of the swatches above are knit in stocking stitch. One is knit flat and the other is knit as if in the round. Each has 24 sts and 30 rows. Can you tell the difference?

The swatch on the left, knit flat, measures 10.5 cm across by 11.5 cm high. The swatch on the right, knit as if in the round, measures 11 cm by 11 cm. “So what?”, I hear you cry. “Half a cm isn’t going to make much difference.” Once upon a time I would have agreed with you, but if you are knitting something on a larger scale then this difference starts to add up, resulting in a garment or even an accessory that doesn’t quite fit as you had hoped.

Swatching also gives you a chance to see how your chosen yarn will behave. You may have found the perfect yarn and pattern combo, but after swatching the fabric looks too loose or is too stiff. Better to find that out now, rather than after hours of knitting time. With my swatches, the one that I knit as if in the round is a lot more supple than the one I knit flat.

The back of a swatch knit as if in the round. Strands of purple yarn lay across the back of the work joining the beginning and end of each row.

But what does it mean to knit something ‘as if in the round’? Quite simply, it means that rather than turning your knitting to work the next row, you slide the stitches back along the needle and work each row in the same direction, to mimic knitting in the round.

You can use either a circular or two double pointed needles to create a swatch as if in the round. Using stocking stitch as an example, you would knit your first row as normal then slide all the stitches to the other end of the needle before knitting the next row, carrying a length of yarn across the back of the work. I would recommend not pulling the yarn across the back too tight as you will need to be able to lay it out flat to measure it once you are finished. However this does lead to the first and last two stitches of the row being looser than the rest. To combat this I knit a garter stitch border down each side of the swatch (knit one row, purl first and last few stitches on the next) to absorb these looser stitches so that it doesn’t affect the area you will want to measure. It doesn’t need to be very wide, 3 stitches or more will be enough. I also pull on the carried yarn to tighten up the stitches so that row gauge isn’t affected.

All that’s left is to cast off as normal and there you have your swatch ‘in the round’!

I’d love hear if this technique has made a difference in your knitting. If you’d like to carry on the swatching theme, you can discover the importance of blocking your swatch here.

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